An Essential Point in T20

Is this. This sets T20 in opposition to Cricket in which accumulation is the name of the game for the batter. Cricket has the “slog” - a period of time when the batters go all out for quick runs without regard for dismissal. This itself suggests that in Cricket, the norm is accumulation - when batsmen try to accumulate runs safely - making the rare periods when safety is discarded, notable.

In T20, there is no period of accumulation. There are only 120 balls to play, and 10 wickets to spend. So in T20, accumulation involves conceding deliveries to the opposition by taking only what the opposition offers (via their deep set fields - in T20 it is extremely rare for field settings to involve fewer than the maximum permitted fielders outside the 30 yard circle).

The batting average is a measure of a batter’s capacity to accumulate. The scoring rate is a measure of the batter’s ability to slog. In T20, the average score achieved after x deliveries in the setting innings (1st inns) is given below, and compared to the average score achieved by six batters. Two of these - Virat Kohli and Babar Azam - are accumulators. They have high averages and are consistent. The pattern of their innings is often observed by saying that “they are explosive towards the end of their innings”.

Here’s another way of looking at this record. This shows how much slower or quicker (as a percentage of the average score) each player’s average score is. The deliveries for which players are slow scorers are given in red, the deliveries for which the players are quick scorers are given in blue.

Azam and Kohli are in the red for most of the first 47 deliveries they face. You might say “well, they get into the blue after 47 deliveries and score quickly”. But consider this. 75% of Kohli’s innings end before he faces his 38th delivery. 62% of Rohit Sharma’s innings end before his 24th delivery. And 75% of Babar Azam’s innings end before he faces his 47th delivery.

So, even if you say that “well, so Kohli and Azam come good every 4th innings, that’s good”. The point is, that in this sense, Rohit Sharma “comes good” in 38% (or 2 out of 5 innings). Rohit Sharma is the better T20 player, because he doesn’t accumulate for as long as Kohli or Azam.

All this ignores the opportunity cost presented by a player like Kohli and Azam. Every delivery which they spend accumulating is a delivery unavailable to one of their fellow batters to slog. The early dismissal is the less damaging failure in T20 than the accumulators dismissal while they’re still in the red. Further, the high average in T20 also does not mean what it means in Tests or ODIs because no bowling side is ever trying to dismiss a batter in T20. A high average unaccompanied by commensurately high scoring rate should be understood as a player who is happy to take what’s offer without really contesting the delivery.

This is not how we’re accustomed to think of batters in cricket. Batting longer is considered better by default. But that’s in cricket. Not in T20.